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4 Expert CEOs on How to Combat Quiet Quitting

By Shep Moyle

Workplace engagement and the changing nature of work is at the top of every CEO’s list today. The past three years — and for many companies, the introduction of remote and hybrid work options for the first time — fundamentally changed company policies, employee expectations, and organizational processes.

Are you managing this change, or is it managing you?

We wanted to get to the bottom of what motivates and engages our workforces today, so we brought together a distinguished panel of former CEOs and CEO Coaching International coaches with decades of experience in leadership. You can watch the complete panel here, or read on for a few top takeaways:

What is “quiet quitting”?

Some say quiet quitting is about doing the bare minimum during the workday. Others say it’s about shedding hustle culture and “quitting the idea of going above and beyond.”

As a former CEO, I know I was guilty of 4:30 a.m. emails or quick calls on the weekend to senior management on urgent items. Many of our managers and leaders today are accustomed to a cultural expectation that everyone will go the extra mile for the company, even if it means extra hours or going beyond the specified job responsibilities.

But the pandemic has completely shifted this perspective. Just as many companies are requiring their employees to return to the office, face down layoffs or other recession-proofing measures, or generally look to increase their performance, team members no longer want to hustle the way they used to. But it’s not a new phenomenon — it’s just gained more widespread popularity.

“It’s existed for years,” says former CEO of multiple billion-dollar companies Michael Marchi. “You’re always going to have members of your organization who just do the bare minimum. But it is accelerating because people are less connected to work, and culturally, more people are interested in drawing boundaries.”

Solving quiet quitting comes down to culture-building

With the removal of a physical office space, it’s up to companies to create a feeling of belonging and purpose to motivate employees — and provide real, tangible reasons to collaborate and lean in. “Do you have a sense of belonging and that you’re going after the same goal?” asks global industrial business leader Erno de Brujin. “It’s about a lack of proper culture and values. If there’s no sense of purpose, then of course your employee won’t want to engage. They don’t feel like they belong.”

Creating a sense of purpose comes from two major soft skills: setting expectations and communication. Says entrepreneur Meghan Watkins, “As leaders of an organization, it’s our responsibility to inspire our teams. Being able to communicate why the work we’re doing matters, and to encourage communication, is going to make people feel more comfortable and help you understand why they’re more disengaged.”

Every employee should understand:

  • The overall purpose of the company. Why do they come to work every day? What’s the higher purpose beyond a paycheck?
  • Company and division-specific goals. How are they able to contribute to that higher purpose and overall success, in tangible ways?
  • Expectations for their role. What specific piece of those goals are they a part of?

“You’re not going to have people step up and be a top performer if you don’t give employees a level of purpose,” says Marchi. “People need to know what’s expected of them, what their output needs to be, and how that work contributes to the overall success of the company.”

Bottom line: Quiet quitting is another word for the same employee engagement issues every company faces. Start with value and purpose, rather than defaulting to bringing everyone back into the office where you can see them.

New tools to inspire employee engagement

Solving this new workplace trend requires a few new tools, however. “We need to adapt and change as we move forward,” says former Gillette managing director Pascal Brochier. “There’s a new level of trust that needs to be built, and you need to embrace new engagement tools. Whether you’re distributed, hybrid, or in person, the fundamentals are still the same. They just execute in a different way moving forward.”

You already have the tools to measure engagement and keep your teams engaged. Consider evaluating how you’re using:

  • Quarterly goal-setting meetings, or similar structures like company-wide OKRs (objectives and key results)
  • Real-time chat tools like Slack that allow you to stay in touch with your teams
  • Video conferencing like Zoom or Microsoft Teams
  • Coaching and training, both for employees and management

“Things have changed. Employees are available 24/7, but they’re burned out,” says Watkins. “There hasn’t been enough training and development for managers to be able to communicate effectively with teams in a changing environment, so that they’re laying out expectations, motivating, and inspiring teams every day.”

For more on motivating and inspiring teams for CEOs, consider chatting with one of these expert coaches. Learn more >

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 31% (2.6X the U.S. average) and an average EBITDA CAGR of 52.3% (more than 5X the U.S. average).

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